What about rape?

“What about rape?” is the question no pro-life candidate wants to hear these next few months. The fear of becoming the next Todd Akin is at the forefront of the minds of many good, pro-life candidates who have no idea how to answer that question when it comes to abortion. Admittedly, it’s a tough one, especially during election season where “rape” has been called “the four-letter word.”

By refusing to answer the question or giving a cringe-worthy response, the credibility of the pro-life movement is put in jeopardy because we leave doubts in the minds of so many Americans who have mixed emotions on the question, believing abortion is wrong but not wanting to further hurt a rape survivor.

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However, it’s a question that must be answered because so much is at stake: the health and well-being of the mother and the life of the baby, who through no fault of his or her own now exists. While crisis pregnancies in cases of rape are indeed a very tiny percentage of all abortions committed, they still involve the taking of a life and a lifetime of complications, mentally and possibly physically, for rape survivors. 

Sexual assault is unfortunately prevalent in today’s culture. The National Institute of Justice reports that 3 percent of all college-age women are victims of completed or attempted rape, which translates to about 300 women on a campus of 10,000 female students. And nearly 80 percent of female victims of completed rape experienced the crime before the age of 25.

If sexual assault is as common as these statistics point out, how can we not talk about abortion in cases of rape?  It is estimated that pregnancy occurs in 5 percent of rapes. These women are then faced with the heart wrenching choice of parenting their child or having an abortion. 

Pro-lifers, especially those in the public eye, need to know how to answer the “what about rape?” question. This week, Students for Life of America is launching our national We Care Tour visiting several college campuses this fall, addressing this very question, not shirking from it. 

We will have the very real and honest conversations that need to be had; pass out rape whistles, sexual consent cards, and hotline numbers; and tell the stories of those women who conceived because of rape.

The conversations will be hard, especially given the violent and personal nature of rape and sexual assault. The pro-life movement absolutely has to be compassionate and understanding of what these women have been through and continue to suffer. But abortion is not the answer to lessening that suffering.

While the intention may be to ease her suffering, abortion, even in the case of rape, is a great injustice to the second victim, the baby, because he or she did not choose to be placed in this situation, either. Ultimately, we will ask the question: If both victims of this tragic situation can walk away with their lives intact, isn’t that the best option?

The Elliot Institute surveyed 192 women who conceived during a rape or incest. Of those victims, 70 percent carried the baby to term and either raised the child or made an adoption plan, 29 percent had an abortion, and 1.5 percent had a miscarriage.

  • 43 percent of these women said they felt pressured to abort from family or health workers.
  • 78 percent of those who aborted had regrets and said that abortion was the wrong solution.
  • None of the women who gave birth said they regretted their decision.

Talking about the “what about rape?” question demands generous compassion and empathy. Sexual assault is an incredibly violent crime that no one should ever have to face. The damage done to the victims are extensive – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually – but adding an abortion to that crime is adding another, equally innocent, victim. The pro-life movement needs to find a way to deliver that message with care and love.

Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America. To learn more about the We Care Tour, please visit www.wecaretour.com

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